“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 ESV)
These words that are repeated often at Christmas time were spoken originally by Isaiah, the prophet, hundreds of years before Jesus. “For unto us a child is born….” These words are so ubiquitous in our western culture today that we may miss the significance of them.
At one time, people doubted the dating of Isaiah because it so accurately describes Jesus who was born around 4 BC. Isaiah lived purportedly in the 8th Century BC. Because Isaiah predates Jesus and the span of time from Isaiah to Jesus, an increasingly skeptical world that seriously doubted the predictive nature of those words begin to think that the Isaiah text was written after Jesus, perhaps in the 1st Century after his death.
People no longer doubt when Isaiah wrote those words, however, not since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the most significant discoveries among the Dead Scrolls was the Isaiah Scroll. It has been dated hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and it is nearly word for word the same as the more recent manuscripts of Isaiah that we had until that time.
Isaiah contains, perhaps, the clearest and most amazing prophecies in the whole OT of the coming of Jesus. For this reason, Isaiah is quoted every Christmas. Particularly the statements stating that the Messiah would come as a child.
At least one aspect of what Isaiah wrote gets lost in wonder of the predictions he spoke. We look back on them now with wonder and amazement that God inspired Isaiah to speak those words so long ago, but when Isaiah spoke them, no one listened. No one believed him.
I am about ready to fly back to Chicago from Phoenix, AZ after participating in my first Board Meeting of the Gospel Justice Initiative as a board member. I am humbled to be part of this group that is attempting to implement and carry out in these modern times the words of the prophet:
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
It’s fitting that today is Martin Luther King Day. Last night as I drove back to my hotel, I listened to a podcast interview of Frank Viola who wrote books like Pagan Christianity and his most recent book, Insurgence. He pointed out in the interview that both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a problem with Jesus. The Pharisees were the equivalent of the conservative right today, and the Sadducees were the equivalent of the progressive left.
That resonates deeply with me as I survey the world today in and out of my social media feed. While both sides might claim Jesus in their political platforms (more or less), I have the distinct impression that they would be put off by Jesus face to face in their presence. Jesus didn’t conform to the spirit of this world. His was the kingdom of God.
Followers of Jesus, it seems to me, should reflect the character and “aroma” of Jesus. I think of these things when I remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was hated by the ultra-conservative, called a communist and scrutinized like an enemy of the state. He was also despised by the radical left who criticized him for standing in the way of real revolution, a violent takeover and overthrowing of the status quo.
I see Jesus in Martin Luther King and his legacy – not just because he didn’t sit comfortably with the far right and the far left, but because he exhibited the character and carried the aroma of Christ.
Have you ever wondered why the genealogy of the lineage of Jesus in Matthew includes five women? The inclusion of women in the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, from the First Century account of the life of Jesus by one of his closest followers, Matthew, should stick out as a curiosity to explore. At least it did for me.
I am reblogging a series of articles I wrote last year leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas on the women in the genealogy of Jesus. Their stories are interesting and reveal something about the heart of God that shines through them precisely because they are women in a patriarchal society.
Some of these women are not even descendants of Abraham! Yet, they are included in the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah from the root of Jesse’s seed of the people of Abraham. What does that say about God? About His plan of salvation for the world?
The story of Ruth is such a tale. Ruth isn’t a descendant of Abraham, yet her timeless story is part of the lineage of Jesus. Her story has central significance in the story of God’s redemptive work through Jesus whose birth we are about to celebrate.
My Christmas thoughts have taken me to the genealogy in Matthew of the lineage of Jesus and the curious inclusion of five women in that patriarchal history. They stand out, not only as women in a patriarchal society, but as examples of faith and of God’s redeeming love.
Tamar and Rahab, the first two women in the list, were unlikely examples. Tamar prostituted herself with Judah, and Rahab was actually a prostitute. That God would use such sinful and lowly women is shocking, if not remarkable. Their stations in life and their choices before the encounters which defined them were humble and base.
Their faith, however, is the story. They believed God. They made a choice to trust God and His promise. Though they were both flawed and of low station in life, they are remembered in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the…
Originally posted on Navigating by Faith: (c) Can Stock Photo / halfpoint Amazingly, the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew lists five women. In a patriarchal society governed by paternal lineage, that fact should jump out at us and cause us to take notice. What is God saying? What was He doing? How should we view…
Families and Christmas can be messy. The vast majority of us do not live in a Hallmark world. The fact that Christmas season always sees an uptick in the incidence of suicide is testament to the fact that the gap between Holiday cheer and reality can be a big on
But there is hope! Christmas is the remembrance of God stepping into world like a light shining in the darkness.
Last year at this time, I began a series of blogs on the women listed in the genealogical lineage of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. That a total of five women are even listed in his genealogy is kind of mind blowing. Genealogies, especially in the First Century patriarchal world, are dominated by men. What are these women doing there?
It occurs to me that maybe God is saying something particularly important by including five women in the genealogy of Jesus.
For starters, God’s view of women, I believe, has always been higher than patriarchal history gives them credit. After all, God made us, male and female, in His image. Men are only half the image of God if you do the math.
But something else is going on as well. When you dig into the stories of the people in the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior, surprises are plentiful. His lineage isn’t particularly saintly. It’s “complicated”.
Jesus came not only as a light in the darkness of the world; he came as a light in the darkness of his own lineage. The story of Tamar is just one such example. She is the first woman listed in that lineage.
We can gain insights by looking at the women who are listed. The first woman listed is Tamar. Her story is found in Genesis 38, and it is a wild one for people of polite sensibilities.
Tamar was the wife of Judah’s oldest son, Er. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob (son of Isaac, son of Abraham). It might seem odd that Judah, the fourth son, is the one from whom Jesus (the Messiah) descends, but that is only a minor oddity compared to the rest.
My Christmas thoughts a year ago were focused on the women in the genealogy that Matthew included in the beginning of his Gospel. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth are all stories of redemption foreshadowing the ultimate redemption story when God entered into our story, which is ultimately His story. The grand story of global redemption is what we celebrate at Christmastime, and these women are all instrumental in that global redemption story.
A total of five women are listed in the patriarchal lineage included at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. The oddity of including women in a patriarchal lineage bears some investigation. Indeed, we find the redemptive theme when we look into it, and, that theme continues with the next woman on the list, but with a twist.
The twist begins with the fact that the next woman isn’t even named! The genealogy in Matthew reads like this:
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife[i]
Another oddity signals that something is different here. The stories of Tamar and Ruth were stories of kinsman-redeemers, women who embraced the shelter and protection of the relatives of their deceased husbands and, thereby, gave birth to sons who would carry on the line that would eventually lead to Jesus, the Christ (Messiah). All of the first three women, including Rahab, are also stories of faith and God’s faithfulness.
The story of “Uriah’s wife” is another example of God’s faithfulness, but human side of the story is one of unfaithfulness. Bathsheba is the mother who had been Uriah’s wife. She isn’t named for a scandalous reason.